Justin Thomas fired a closing round of 69 at Kapalua to win the SBS Tournament of Champions and climb to 12th place on the Official world Golf Ranking.
Thomas began the final round with a two shot lead and he maintained at least that advantage until the 15th hole when the young American hooked a 4-iron into a hazard and ran up a double bogey.
Hideki Matsuyama piled the pressure on Thomas with a pitch-in eagle at the 14th, reducing the gap at the top of the board to just a single stroke.
The Japanese star had a chance to tie Thomas for the lead on the 16th but his birdie effort narrowly missed. It proved to be Matsuyama’s last chance. On the par-3 17th, Thomas hit a majestic 8-iron shot to within just a few feet of the pin, setting up a birdie two. Matsuyama tried to stay in touch, racing his birdie effort well past the cup. He missed the return and his race was run.
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Thomas closed with a birdie to finish on 22-under-par and win his second PGA Tour event of the 2016-17 season, he also won the CIMB Classic in Malaysia.
"I stumbled more than I would have liked to do," Thomas said. "But it shows where my game is at right now. I had some woes there, but I stuck it out to still get it done."
3 Talking points from the SBS Tournament of Champions
1 – With this win Justin Thomas has climbed to 12th on the Official World Golf Ranking. This was his third PGA Tour victory and his second of this season. His close friend Jordan Spieth believes Thomas has what it takes to reach the very top of the game. "I think it's potentially floodgates opening," Spieth said. "The guy hits it forever. He's got a really, really nifty short game. He manages the course well. He's playing the golf course the way it should be played, and honestly, he's taking advantage of the easier holes.
2 – Hideki Matsuyama continued his excellent run of form, finishing as runner-up to Thomas. The 24-year-old has won in four of his last six tournament starts. In the other two he has finished runner-up and, on both of those occasions, he has lost out to Justin Thomas. Matsuyama leads the FedEx Cup standings.
3 – Defending champion Jordan Spieth finished strongly in Hawaii. He fired an excellent 65 in tough conditions to climb into a tie for third place. He might have been in contention for the victory had he not stumbled to a triple and a double bogey in the second round. “(My confidence is) high. Very high. I was told 26 birdies and an eagle this week, which certainly should be good enough on this course to win the tournament but unfortunately had a couple big numbers,” he said. “But when those birdies and eagles are there, that's a huge confidence boost. That means I'm able to convert, and the other stuff is actually easier to get rid of.”
SBS Tournament of Champions Plantation Course at Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii Jan 5-8 Purse $6,100,000 par 73
1 Justin Thomas (USA) 67 67 67 69 270 $1,220,000 2 Hideki Matsuyama (Jap) 69 68 66 70 273 $712,000 T3 Jordan Spieth (USA) 72 69 70 65 276 $359,000 T3 Pat Perez (USA) 69 71 69 67 276 $359,000 T3 Ryan Moore (USA) 67 67 71 71 276 $359,000 T6 Dustin Johnson (USA) 69 70 69 69 277 $210,000 T6 Patrick Reed (USA) 70 65 72 70 277 $210,000 T6 Brendan Steele (USA) 72 67 67 71 277 $210,000 T9 Tony Finau (USA) 70 68 70 70 278 $172,333 T9 William McGirt (USA) 70 69 66 73 278 $172,333 T9 Jimmy Walker (USA) 65 70 70 73 278 $172,333
Note: Player score in bold signifies Titleist ball usage
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Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly.
Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?
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